Several well-known lists rank colleges and universities in the United States. Rankings that take into account diverse factors — class size, teacher-to-student ratio, financial aid, campus social life — are useful as a relative assessment of quality and allow future students to evaluate which schools might be good matches for their own temperaments, needs, resources, and goals.
Assessments of country-level bribery risk should be no less nuanced. Just as a student shouldn’t apply to a school-based solely on its academic ranking, compliance-minded multinational companies ought to consider more about a potential market than whether it is considered high- or low-risk.
When evaluating governmental corruption compliance teams should instead aim to understand the nature and location of that corruption and consider a range of contributing factors.
For example, we know that bribery risk often arises from severe bureaucratic inefficiency, allowing corrupt civil servants to leverage their practical discretion over the facilitation of governmental services. Knowing how much delay and red tape to expect can help compliance teams prepare employees and agents to confidently resist bribe demands in exchange for preferential treatment. Imagine further that a government makes a successful long-term effort to reduce such inefficiencies. Should this be interpreted as reducing the leverage-based risk? Perhaps, but it could also be useful to evaluate whether an improved anti-corruption enforcement environment accompanies those administrative reforms or whether there is a demonstrable change in government officials’ expectations of bribery.
Your company’s status and goals also play a role in risk assessment. Looking at TRACE’s 2020 Bribery Risk Matrix, which was released in November, it may be pertinent to ask: Is your company a household name in a given market? Does that present you with opportunities to influence a government’s tolerance of graft? Can you find support in a vibrant civil society and a thriving free press? How might you encourage and normalize a greater degree of transparency in government transactions? What if you are less closely involved in a country’s affairs but simply want to get your goods through customs without a payoff? Is the bureaucratic culture becoming less corrupt, or should you consider geographically rerouting?
Higher education isn’t just about exchanging time and money for knowledge, skills, and status. Attending college involves participating in a community of learning, achieving growth that goes beyond any particular accreditation.
Similarly, understanding bribery risk means understanding not only the pitfalls of a particular market but also the political ecosystem in which your company operates. While your business-oriented divisions—like some parents—may be solely interested in the bottom line, compliance teams have a responsibility and an opportunity to consider the uncommodified aspects of business engagement and how your company’s endeavors can be not just profitable but enriching.